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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, & community efforts.

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Rabies

Contact the Florida Department of Health


Racoons and bats transmit rabies in Florida.

Photo credit: jumpinjimmyjava / Foter / CC BY

Rabies virus can cause a nearly 100% fatal illness in humans and other mammals. The virus is present in some wildlife in Florida and can spread to unvaccinated pets, which then pose a high risk to the pet owner and their family. The main wildlife sources of rabies in Florida are raccoons and bats. Infected raccoons and bats can expose people, pets, livestock and other wildlife to rabies, typically through bites. Outside cats are by far the most common domestic animal found to have rabies in the state of Florida largely because they are often not kept up-to-date on rabies vaccinations. Dogs, cats and ferrets are required by law to be vaccinated against rabies in the state of Florida.

Some actions people and their families can take to prevent from being exposed to rabies include avoiding direct contact with wildlife, not feeding wildlife, consulting with a veterinarian to ensure pets are up-to-date on rabies vaccinations, and supervising pets and young children while outside. If you believe you may have been exposed to rabies, contact your health care provider and your county health department right away. If an exposure occurred, there is effective treatment that can prevent infections in people if administered in a timely manner.

  • RABIES PREVENTION
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • RABIES IN BATS
  • WORLD RABIES DAY - SEPTEMBER 28
  • Educational Materials

1. Avoid direct human and domestic animal contact with wild animals.

2. Have your veterinarian vaccinate pets and at-risk livestock, make sure you follow your veterinarian's instructions for revaccination.

3. Do not allow your pets to run free. Follow leash laws by keeping pets and livestock secured on your property.

4. Never feed wild or stray animals-avoid attracting them with outdoors food sources. Feed your pets indoors.

5. If your animal is attacked by a wild, stray or unvaccinated animal, DO NOT examine your pet for injuries without wearing gloves. DO wash your pet with soap and water to remove saliva from the attacking animal. DO NOT let your animal come into contact with other animals or people until the situation can be handled by animal control or county health department staff.

6. Educate the public to reduce contact with stray and feral animals.

7. Support animal control in efforts to reduce feral and stray animal populations.

8. Provide pre-exposure prophylaxis for people in high-risk professions, such as animal control and veterinary personnel, laboratory workers, and those working with wildlife.

9. Bat-proof homes.

How is rabies spread?

When an animal is sick with rabies, the virus is shed in the saliva and can be passed to another animal or a person, usually through a bite. Transmission may also occur if this saliva or the animal's nervous tissue enters open wounds, the mouth, nose or eyes of another animal or person.

What do rabid animals look like?

Animals with rabies may show strange behavior -- they can be aggressive, attacking for no apparent  reason, or act very tame (especially wild animals). They may not be able to eat, drink or swallow. They may drool because they cannot swallow their saliva. They may stagger or become paralyzed. Eventually they will die.

What do I do if an animal bites me?

  • Immediately scrub the wound with lots of soap and running water for five to ten minutes.
  • Try to get a complete description of the animal and determine where it is so that it can be picked up by animal control staff for quarantine or rabies testing.
  • Go to your family doctor or the nearest emergency room.
  • Call your county health department or animal control agency with your description and location of the animal. The animal will either be quarantined for ten days (if it is a dog, cat or ferret) or be tested for rabies.
  • If you kill the animal, be careful not to damage the head, and avoid further contact with the animal even when it is dead.

What do I do to protect myself, my family and my pets from rabies?

  • Have your veterinarian vaccinate all of your dogs, cats, ferrets and horses against rabies, and make sure you follow your veterinarian's instructions for revaccination.
  • Avoid contact with wild or stray animals.
  • Never feed wild or stray animals -- avoid attracting them with outdoor food sources (like uncovered trash). Feed your pets indoors.
  • Do not allow your pets to run free. Follow leash laws by keeping pets and livestock secured on your property.
  • Support animal control in your community. If your animal is attacked by a wild, stray or unvaccinated animal, DO NOT examine your pet for injuries without wearing gloves. Wash your pet with soap and water to remove saliva from the attacking animal. Do not let your animal come into contact with other animals or people until the situation can be dealt with by animal control or county health department staff.

Florida Department of Health and partners Florida Department of Agriculture, Florida Animal Control Association, University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Wildlife Rehabilitators Association and the Florida representatives for the United States Humane Society are in support of the World Rabies Day mission to raise awareness about:

1) The impact of human and animal rabies

2) How easy it is to prevent rabies from occurring

3) How to eliminate the main global sources

See World Rabies Day for more information

Color Brochures/ Posters

Color Brochure (English)

Color Brochure (Spanish)

Color Brochure (Creole)

Color Poster- Prevent Bat Rabies

Fact Sheets

The rabies fact sheets are adapted from the tri-fold color brochure and are available as black and white PDF documents for downloading, printing, and distribution.

Rabies Fact Sheet (English)

Rabies Fact Sheet (Spanish)

Rabies Fact Sheet (Creole)

Materials for Kids

CDC Rabies Webpage Just For Kids

*Note: This page contains materials in the Portable Document Format (PDF). The free Acrobat Reader may be required to view these files.